I had to look it up to make sure it meant what I thought it did. It was used in a peculiar context, in a peculiar book.

“I” am not a subject; not an object. “I” am an abject.

I started reading Victor Vitanza’s Negation, Subjectivity, and The History of Rhetoric. Or, it might be more apt to say I was engulfed by it. It’s hard to describe at this point. Like most postmodern tomes, it’s filled with critical doublespeak, and yet, it’s just plain fun. That is, if you can get the jokes. Some of them are obtuse to the extreme.

Vitanza wants to create a new history of rhetoric: “Histories of unfettered desire. Desire in language and everything else.” He constantly gestures at many texts I’ve never read, and many that I have. His agenda is one of pure desire, but desire of a special type. Desire without organs:

(Organs = ways of territorializing, or of deterritorializing and reterritorializing —denegating and renegating— the flow of desire. Without Organs = perpetual deterritorializing)

The book is full of parentheses, or as Vitanza calls them, invaginations. He explains:

Sometimes, I find that I must un/make particular comments of mine. (I must put my “I”/eye— so to s/peak— in parenthesis.) When reading en parentheses, just laugh.

Needless to say, this one is going to take a while to read. But I just had to comment on it while I was still laughing. Talking to one of my professors that knows him, he is a short little white guy with gray hair. Funny, but I sort of pictured some kind of neo-boho in a beret. His prose is just terrific, if not maddening. Like many of the people in the field with even the slightest tinge of humanism left, he’s looking for a rhetoric of yes instead of a rhetoric of not. NOT a book for beginners.

I’ve read at least half of his references, so it makes a reasonable amount of sense to me, but it would be a real mountain to climb for someone not well versed in critical theory. But it’s just so damn fun. Once you get the jokes.

Vitanza presents a definition of self that I like a lot, buried deep in the mire:

. . .this “I” would become a series of flows, energies, movements, capacities, a series of parts and segments capable of becoming linked together in ways other than those which congeal them by standard academic operating procedures. (. . .un/just as these “Becauses” link but do not necessarily legitimately link, or couple. Yes, I am for illegitimate couplings! As I will tout later, by way of Jean-Francois Lyotard and Ovid and Hélène Cixous, it is necessary to link [be social] but not how to link. Here, throughout, therefore, I link one traditional or revisionary machine to a desiring machine.

He seems to summon the ghost of Artaud. Humans as desiring machines? I must say I like that. I like that a lot. It beats the heck out of “symbol-making creatures.” All this is just from the introduction. I must say, this one is going to take a while to wrap my mind around. But I like it so far.

I prefer being an “abject” to being either a subject or an object.

1 thought on “Abject”

  1. Dear Mr. Darkness,

    Although you don’t know @osh, you might like to know that he and I used to exchange emails about Vic Vit when he used to do his enjoyable highwire act on some mail list that I now forget to which we both subscribed. The exchanges about Vic Vit were like this:

    “Did you see Vic Vit’s thing today?””Yeah.”

    Well, maybe you had to be there. But the real reason I wrote is to encourage you to check out Deleuze and Guattari, who are the original source of all that business about bodies without organs and desiring machines. Avoid Anti-Oedipus–read A Thousand Plateaus, which is their best. When it gets impenetrable as theory, it’s still terrific, inspiring poetry.

    Yours as ever,


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